South Carolina has always wielded disproportionate influence on the national political scene via its hosting of the GOP’s “First in the South” presidential primary election. This year, that influence will cross the aisle as Democrats host the “First in the Nation” primary in the Palmetto State (or try to).
Early voting is not the extent of South Carolina’s sway, though – especially not in this cycle. With multiple native South Carolinians vying for the presidency in 2024, the Palmetto State is making its impact felt far beyond its spot on the presidential calendar.
We all know about the national campaigns of U.S. senator Tim Scott and former governor Nikki Haley, but is there another Palmetto politician who could wind up outshining them both this election cycle?
And if so, who?
Our founding editor Will Folks and our political columnist Mark Powell produce this index – tracking the rising and falling fortunes of politicos at multiple levels. Got a hot “stock tip” for their consideration? Email Will (here) and/ or Mark (here). Just make sure to include “Palmetto Political Stock Index” in the subject line.
Remember, our installment is simply an assessment of how individuals (or institutions) fared over the past week. Positive reports certainly don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t indicative of a vendetta. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em. To borrow Walter Cronkite’s famous line, “That’s the way it is …” No more, no less.
Also, a quick reminder … just because your favored politician didn’t wind up on this week’s list doesn’t mean we aren’t still tracking them. The index doesn’t list everyone we track every week. Otherwise we’d be here all day.
Where should you invest your political capital this week? Let’s find out …
Like it or not, for better or for worse, all eyes remain upon Donald Trump as the aftermath of his latest indictment is digested by the vox populi. On that score, the past week brought little encouraging news for the former president.
For the first time since his legal woes spilled into state and federal courtrooms, polling showed Trump’s lead in the GOP presidential field softening somewhat. He clearly remains the man to beat – by a wide margin – but that margin is narrowing incrementally. Florida governor Ron DeSantis is still firmly in second place, followed by everybody else in a more or less jumbled heap.
So, what’s behind the dip? Is it the natural cooling down that often follows a big spike in approval ratings? Or was the initial bump for Trump a knee-jerk emotional reaction? Were voters expressing more anger at federal and New York state officials for politicizing our justice system than they were supporting Trump? And the biggest question: Are some Trump supporters finally having buyer’s remorse and rethinking his viability in the upcoming general election?
Time, the great revealer of all things, will tell. One week does not a trend make. But if a downward slide takes hold – and worse, continues throughout July – it could signal warning lights flashing for the Trump campaign.
Walking the “Trump tightrope” isn’t easy. Just ask Nikki Haley … who continues to struggle with this existential GOP dilemma For South Carolina first district congresswoman Nancy Mace, though, the Trump high wire act has been deftly navigated.
What’s the difference? After all, Mace was every bit as vocal as Haley when it came to criticizing Trump in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 rioting at the U.S. capitol.
“Everything that he’s worked for … his entire legacy — was wiped out,” she said at the time.
Of course, Mace was actually at the capital complex while the violence was going down. Meaning whether you agreed or disagreed with what she said, her comments came from a place of first-person perspective – not political calculation.
Addressing the Trump calculus is also easier for Mace because she’s gone head-to-head with him … and won. That’s been a liberating dynamic for her – and the independent bent of her coastal South Carolina district has only empowered her freedom of movement.
Mace’s ability to speak “Truth to Trump” in a way that doesn’t come off as cravenly opportunistic has positioned her as a legitimate vice presidential prospect. That’s quite a contrast from Haley, whose national political aspirations appear to be foundering …
S.C. HOUSE GOP CAUCUS
Now that they’ve called for the curtain on the 2023 legislative session, it’s worth recapitulating the mess South Carolina’s “Republican” supermajority made in Columbia this past year. Actions speak louder than words they say, so let us judge this passel of conservative poseurs by what they did and didn’t do.
- Pass one of the Far Left’s sweetest dreams — a hate crimes bill (thankfully, the Senate ran out the clock on this Woke travesty).
- Doled out $1.3 billion to Scout Motors, whose parent company Volkswagen Group slavishly obeys Germany’s ESG mandates.
- Gave tens of millions of your tax dollars to Hollywood liberal elites in hopes of bringing West Coast whack-a-doodle ideology to South Carolina. Next-door neighbor Georgia spread its legs for Hollywood, and look what happened. Have you noticed how the once reliably red Peach State is voting purple these days?
They did not:
- Stand up to illegal immigration. A workforce development bill was brought to the floor that originally included a section that would have given illegals licensure — which, thankfully, was removed under conservative pressure.
- Failed to stop the sexual mutilation of small children under the guise of “gender confirmation surgery.”
- Refused to act to ban ESG and DEI at state colleges and universities.
Seriously, this was the best a chamber with a GOP supermajority could do? You’re likely to find more genuine conservatives at an Antifa rally than in the House Republican Caucus. Which leads us to …
Great job of looking after taxpayer’s dollars, governor! (Said no one ever).
When the $38.8 billion FY 2023-24 state budget was dropped in his lap last week, Henry McMaster only found a total of $1.3 million to cut in 11 vetoes. What got the governor’s blessing and escaped untouched?
- $500,000 for the 2024 UCI BMX (Bike) Racing World Championship in Rock Hill.
- $500,000 for a Saluda River boat ramp in Columbia.
- $300,000 for a wine and cheese festival in Charleston.
So much fat remained in this massive pile of pork McMaster could have just as easily hollered, “Sooie, pig! Come to the trough!”
McMaster has never wielded a particularly weighty veto pen on behalf of South Carolina taxpayers. In fact, it’s been the opposite. But even the mainstream media took note of the “dramatic decrease” in vetoes this year.
Record state spending should have resulted in a more robust use of the gubernatorial veto pen. Sadly for those who pay taxes in the Palmetto State, the opposite was true – yet another example of McMaster’s sad, status quo legacy.
However his presidential campaign turns out, odds are high that for senator Tim Scott, Tuesday, June 20, will be one of his happiest memories.
A huge, wildly enthusiastic crowd packed the John T. Rhodes sports complex in Myrtle Beach, S.C. that evening. It was billed as a town hall and carried live on Fox News. In reality, it was a nationally televised lovefest.
Make no mistake, Scott was at the top of his game. He effectively delivered his signature blend of tent revival preacher combined with substantive fiscal conservatism – an honest appeal based on life experience which South Carolina voters know very well.
But let’s be honest: A true town hall, it wasn’t. Host Sean Hannity didn’t exert himself with multiple underhanded softball pitches (which the senator easily knocked out of the park). And the wildly adoring supporters asked no toughies, either.
The only downside to the evening? Scott had to share the first 10 of his 60 minutes in the national conservative spotlight with the day’s big news — the slap on the wrist given to First Son Hunter Biden for offenses that would have earned you or me a one-way ticket to Leavenworth. But that only seemed to whip up the Scott faithful in the audience all the more.
Was it a game-changer for his decidedly second-tier bid? Nope. But Scott came off looking and sounding presidential – and in a presidential election with an ever-expanding field of candidates (see below), that’s a win.
Here we go again. Apparently, the GOP has run out of first and second-tier presidential candidates. So we are now welcoming future also-rans to the contest.
Former U.S. congressman and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent Will Hurd is making it obvious from the get-go that he’s another anti-Trumper eager to pile on the former president. He proved that by refusing to sign the Republican National Committee’s “I’ll play nice and regardless of what I say in the primaries, I’ll eventually be there for the party’s ultimate nominee in the fall” pledge.
(That’s not what it’s called, but that’s what it amounts to).
“I’m not in the business of lying to the American people in order to get a microphone,” the onetime CIA agent told reporters, “and I’m not going to support Donald Trump.”
Good luck with that winning strategy in this current political environment, sir. We sincerely hope you enjoy the courtesy “rising” rating we give every candidate upon announcing their presidential intentions. I wouldn’t recommend holding my breath waiting for the next one.
Oh, and speaking of all these presidential candidates …
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY SYSTEM
The aforementioned Will Hurd is #11 in the 2024 GOP presidential field. Which makes this primary not unlike one of those little cars in a circus that a string of clowns keeps piling out of. Honestly, we’re nearing the point where hawkers will soon start shouting, “Program! Get your program! You can’t tell the players without a program!”
This isn’t just a Republican problem. Democrats are equally to blame. An incredible twenty-nine of them (29!) ran in 2020. And for 2024, there are already three announced candidates on the Democratic side: Incumbent Joe Biden, environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and author Marianne Williamson. California governor Gavin Newsom is circling the waters like a shark, eager for any opportunity to jump in should Biden go down (again).
Previously, there were 17 announced candidates in the 2016 GOP field.
The presidential nominating process is out of control, people. This isn’t a cattle call. We’re not talking “America’s Got Talent” here.
Unpleasant as it may be to hear, the plain truth is the American attention span is incredibly short. Cluttering it up with an endless parade of party hacks and pretenders to the throne makes a bad situation worse. These astronomically huge fields turn campaign “debates” (which in reality are nothing more than glorified press conferences) into catatonic snooze-fests. After all, you can only hear so many people say essentially the same exact things one after the other for so long.
A primary season should be about the thoughtful responsibility of picking a presidential nominee, not a freestyle existential political exercise where every would-be cabinet hopeful struts his or her stuff.
The bigwigs in both the Democratic and Republican Parties need to get this situation under control. Pronto. Because it is drawing us ever closer to fulfilling H.L. Mencken’s alarming prophecy: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
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